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Success through Openness in Digital Design

Two weeks ago, I gave a talk at Open Belgium 2021, titled “Success through Openness in Digital Design”. The slides are now up here. A recording of the talk is available on YouTube.

What’s this talk about? As digital design is maturing, it is opening up to a wider audience. I believe after the era of opening up development with open source code we are entering an era of open source design.

Openness can lead to success. As digital product designers and developers, we’ve long stood on the shoulders of giants. The history of computing is basically building on top of each other’s work.

Big companies like IBM and Shopify have understood the power of open, and their design systems and source code are freely accessible; check out IBM’s Carbon Design System as well as Shopify’s Polaris. This talk is a call for openness and building community: next to opening up your source code, share your design files! Talk to other companies who are doing similar work!

Let’s try to not reinvent the wheel over and over again. We can learn from each other’s best practices. Publishing your design system and research out in the open like Gov.uk is doing can lead to fantastic results, especially when you have to react fast like when a crisis happens. A base is already there to work from. This is how Gov.uk got a quality Coronavirus website up fast, including a booking system.

Relating this story back to Belgium, I think the time has come to consolidate forces and stop reinventing everything when it comes to digital product design. There are too many different systems on the regional level and on the federal level, a design system is nonexistent. It’s time to make a change. To start solving this problem, I propose the idea of a Belgian Design System.

This will likely be started as a grassroots effort, in a hackathon, or as a student project, but if we are serious about it, it should professionalize as soon as possible. If you are interested to talk about this, reach out to us using the contact page.

Johan Ronsse

About the author

Johan Ronsse is an interface designer who is trying to find the balance between aesthetics and usability. He tweets as @wolfr_2.

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